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Connecticut judge dismisses charges against 2 men convicted of murder 35 years ago

A Connecticut judge on Friday dismissed all criminal charges against two men who spent decades in prison after their murder convictions were vacated last year.

Ralph “Ricky” Birch served more than 30 years of a 55-year sentence and Shawn Henning was granted probation in 2018. Both had been convicted in connection with the brutal Dec. 1, 1985, slaying of 65-year-old Everett Carr.

Henning was 17 when the crime occurred and received probation under new rules for teenage offenders.

Shawn Henning (left) and Ralph Birch had all charges dropped against them Friday after spending years in prison for murder. 

Shawn Henning (left) and Ralph Birch had all charges dropped against them Friday after spending years in prison for murder. 
(Connecticut Department of Correction )

“They say the wheels of justice turn slowly,” Birch told The Hartford Courant outside the courtroom. “That’s a little bit of an understatement. It feels good. It’s been a long time coming.”

No DNA evidence was found in the bloody crime scene to link the pair to the murder, said Andrew O’Shea, Birch’s attorney. Carr, a New Milford resident, was stabbed 27 times, had his throat cut and suffered blows to the head. Despite being identified as suspects shortly after the crime, no blood was found on their clothes or in their car.

They were convicted in part based on testimony from world-famous forensic expert Henry Lee, who gained partial fame during the O.J. Simpson murder trial. Lee testified that was possible for the killers to avoid getting blood on them.

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He also said a towel found in the bathroom near the crime scene with stains thought to be blood could have been touched by the killers while cleaning up. Later tests revealed the stains were not blood.

Prosecutors said they declined to retry the men because witnesses have either died or recanted their stories and that retested evidence failed to tie them to the murder.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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